When the Michigan basketball team hit the hardwood today against Maryland-Baltimore County, a bit of a recurring theme limited their effectiveness during the early portion of the game. Turnovers helped keep the visitors within striking distance for much of the first half. The Wolverines were tossing the ball everywhere except to their teammates, resulting in 11 turnovers before the break. That keyed the offensive production for UMBC, as they turned those miscues into 20 points.
Much of the Michigan's ineffectiveness stemmed from the zone UMBC employed for the majority of the game. The home team was getting plenty of scoring opportunities, some of which were just two feet away from the bucket, but they just wouldn’t fall. Fortunately for the Maize & Blue, the interior duo of Courtney Sims and Brent Petway continued their strong early season play. Sims' seven points and six rebounds combined with Petway’s eight points and four rebounds helped the home team cling to a 26-24 lead despite shooting just 9/24(37.5%) in the first half.
The Wolverines came out with better passing and less turnovers in the second half to take control of the game. Not only did they continue to punch it down low, they also began to convert many of the easy opportunities that they were missing before the break. Michigan had 14 points off of offensive rebounds, as there size and energy inside continued to be a plus. It also helped that they began getting to the free throw line.
"I thought we certainly needed a stronger, smarter and positive second half," Tommy Amaker said after the game. "I challenged them at halftime about being smarter and we were able to get the ball down the court a little faster and beat the zone down the floor. We had better touches and better movement. We were positive on our shots; we took them with aggression in a positive way. My pet peeve about basketball and I can't shake it from our team as well, is that teams and players play if they're scoring. I thought we played better in the second half because we shot it and scored, which helped us play better defense as well."
As has been the case for many games in this young season, when key players struggle, there are others there to pick up the slack. Lester Abram and Dion Harris didn’t score their averages, but Ronnie Coleman and Jerret Smith chipped in to help. Michigan’s interior defense continued to impress as well, as UMBC found it difficult to score down low. The play of Petway and Sims has carried the team on both ends of the court in many games this season, and it certainly did this afternoon in the Wolverines 66-54 victory over UMBC. Sims finished the contest with his second double-double of the season, noticing 18 points and 12 rebounds. Petway chimed in with 14 points and five boards respectively.
"It's nice that we've developed an importance emphasis on playing inside out and those guys (Sims and Petway) have delivered for us," said Amaker. "We've gotten it in there (in the post) and they've been strong around the bucket and finishing around the goal. It's a nice luxury to be able to feed the ball to our post guys."
The biggest test this season comes Monday when Michigan travels to North Carolina State to play in the ACC- Big Ten challenge. This will be there first road game and it will be interesting to see how they handle the environment and well as the game itself. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 PM and will be broadcast live on ESPN2.